Writing & Copy
Every marketing asset starts out as words on a page, so writing must be clear, concise, and consistent for two reasons:
- So that it is readable, friendly, and familiar for the user.
- Because it is the foundation of everything we produce.
Being intentional and intelligent about what we draft helps imbue clarity, concision, and consistency — for the user, for ourselves — but it also saves us time and work.
Below are rules for grammar, style, and tone when composing UI Health communications.
In general, writing for the patient should be done at a fifth grade reading level and in the second person: If you are experiencing pain, call the doctor immediately. We will help diagnose your problem.
Characters Per Line
Copy should be easy on the eyes. It should guide readers across and down the page. Shorter or longer, it can get more difficult to read. Characters per line (CPL) is a publishing term that conveys readability. An optimal line length anywhere from 45–75 characters, or even 50–60 characters.,
We can improve readability with abbreviations, cutting unnecessary or redundant terms, and removing certain grammar cues. Copy needs to be readable. It does NOT need to be phonetic.
The brand-new UI Health Specialty Care Building opened on September 26th, 2022.
The new UI Health Specialty Care Building opened on September 26th.
The UI Health Specialty Care Building opened Sept. 26.
The Specialty Care Building opened Sept. 26.
Full words and numbers are not always needed to convey information or meaning.
The above date is read as September Twenty-sixth. But abbreviating the month and removing the superscript (26th, 26th) makes it more concise and readable.
When a month is used with a specific date, abbreviate only Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., and Dec. Spell out when using alone or with a year: It opened Sept. 26. September 2022 was a warm month. August also was warm.
Do not include the superscript st, nd, rd, th on dates.
Wrong: Jan. 1st, Feb. 2nd
Right: Jan. 1, Feb. 2
Follow this general hierarchy for addresses:
- Building Name, Room/Floor/Suite Number
- Street Address
Outpatient Care Center, Suite 3F
1801 W. Taylor St.
Chicago, IL 60612
Use figures except for noon and midnight. Use am and pm, lowercase, without periods, with a space after the figure. Do not include zeroes for on-the-hour times.
Right: 10 am
Use an en dash to show a time range. Use without a space for a range in the same part of day and with a space for periods that span morning and evening: 9–11 am, 9 am – 3 pm
In general, spell out one through nine: Use figures for 10 or above.
It was his second visit. He had nine months to go. The building has 12 floors.
Numbers used to indicate order (first, second, 10th, 25th, etc.) are called ordinal numbers. Spell out first through ninth: fourth grade, first base, the First Amendment, he was first in line. Use figures starting with 10th.
Numbers used in counting or showing how many (2, 40, 627, etc.) are called cardinal numbers. Spell out numbers before 10 (one, two, 10, 11 first, second, 10th, 11th) unless a percentage: Just 2% responded.
En Dash (–)
Em Dash (—)
Use a hyphen to join together words, such as compound modifiers. The QST supports our top-level growth.
Use an en dash to show a range. The meeting is scheduled from 10–11 am. We anticipate 200–300 people.
Use an em dash to denote an abrupt change in thought in a sentence or an emphatic pause, or to set off a phrase or series that otherwise would be set off by commas.
For events and awareness days, use the plural possessive when talking about a group of providers: Doctors’ Day, Nurses’ Week
Always use a comma before the conjunction in a series: The colors are teal, green, and navy.
A colon generally is used at the end of a sentence or phrase to introduce lists, tabulations, texts, etc. It also can be used to give emphasis. Capitalize the first word after a colon only if it is a proper noun or the start of a complete sentence.
In general, use the semicolon to indicate a greater separation of thought and information than a comma can convey but less than the separation that a period implies.
Use semicolons to separate elements of a series when the items in the series are long or when individual segments contain material that also must be set off by commas.
The Bruno & Sallie Pasquinelli Outpatient Surgery Center has an anesthesia clinic; eight procedure rooms; 24 pre-/post-operation bays; and a direct connection to the University of Illinois Hospital’s surgery center.
A semicolon does NOT introduce anything.
Wrong: Save the Date; Specialty Care Building Ribbon Cutting on Sept. 14.
Bulleted lists always should begin with a capital letter and be entirely complete sentences or entirely fragments; do not mix and match. End complete sentences with appropriate punctuation.
You vs. Patient
In general, try to write in the second person (you), but on occasion it is appropriate to refer to the patient. When addressing diagnoses and treatments, use you. When speaking about general services, patient is OK.
Acronyms can be acceptable on second reference. In general, no periods. Include in parentheses following first reference.
Right: The meeting was at the Outpatient Care Center (OCC). The OCC is located at 1801 W. Taylor St.
Academic Degrees, Medical Licensures, Certifications
Do not include periods when mentioning academic degrees and medical licensures, certifications, or fellowships to establish credentials: Jane Smith, MD; Jane Smith, PhD
Separate credentials with a comma, not a slash.
Wrong: Jane Smith, MD/PhD
Right: Jane Smith, MD, PhD
Wrong: Dr. Jane Smith, MD
In headlines and captions, follow the construct Full Name, Degrees, Certifications: Jane Smith, MD, PhD, FAAP
Use Dr. in first reference as a formal title before the full name of an individual who holds a doctor of dental surgery, doctor of medicine, doctor of optometry, doctor of osteopathic medicine, or doctor of podiatric medicine: Dr. Last Name acceptable on second reference: Dr. Jane Smith works at UI Health. Dr. Smith is a neurologist.
Drs. when listing multiple doctors: Drs. Smith and Brown
One word in all instances.
Capitalize a formal title only when it precedes a name: Residency Director Dr. Jane Smith. Dr. Jane Smith is the residency director
Brand Copy Guidelines
Adhere to the following established guidelines when composing copy for any UI Health-related communications.
UI Health Branding
The UI Health name encompasses:
- The healthcare-delivery enterprise
- The seven UIC health science colleges
UI Health on first reference.
University of Illinois Hospital & Clinics on second reference.
University of Illinois Hospital also acceptable if directly referring to the hospital.
Do not use outdated names or acronyms.
Wrong: University of Illinois Medical Center, UIC Hospital, UIH, UIHHSS, UIMC
While branding illustrates the relationship with the University of Illinois Chicago, UI Health remains the preferred patient-facing name. View Logo Style Guidel
Department names go before full system name: the Department of Neurology at UI Health.
Capitalize only when listed with a service or program: The Department of Neurology at UI Health has 24 doctors. There are 24 doctors in the department.
Do not abbreviate.
Wrong: The Dept. of Neurology
Do not nest divisions or sections within a department.
Wrong: the Division of Transplantation in the Department of Surgery at UI Health
Right: the Division of Transplantation at UI Health
Centers, Clinics, Institutes, Programs
There are several entities that have unique titles that comply with The Joint Commission standards and are approved to use in marketing communications, but in general follow the guidelines below. Use full names on first references and include applicable acronyms in parentheses. Follow guidelines below. Other unique names must be approved by Marketing & Strategic Communications.
55th & Pulaski Health Collaborative
55th & Pulaski acceptable on second reference.
Children’s Hospital University of Illinois (CHUI)
CHUI acceptable on second reference.
Mile Square Health Center (MSHC)
Include location name on first reference if referring to a specific center: Mile Square Health Center–Back of the Yards. Mile Square or MSHC acceptable on second reference. Mile Square Health Centers or Mile Square Health Center locations in plural value.
Wrong: Mile Squares
Outpatient Care Center (OCC)
OCC acceptable on second reference.
Specialty Care Building & Outpatient Surgery Center (SCB)
SCB acceptable on second reference.
A center is a location that involves multiple clinics and services.
Examples: Outpatient Care Center, Mile Square Health Center, Craniofacial Center, Advanced Imaging Center
A clinic is a location for a single specialty within a center.
Example: Dermatology Clinic, Urology Clinic
An institute is a location that combines clinical care, research, and education on a single specialty.
Examples: Lions of Illinois Eye Research Institute
A program is an organizational grouping for a specialty service, or a service associated with an outside entity.
Examples: Kidney Transplant Program, UI Health IDOC Telemedicine Program
Health Science Colleges
In general, use UIC on first reference with to the Chicago-based health science colleges with the exception of the College of Medicine: University of Illinois College of Medicine.
- UIC College of Applied Health Sciences
- UIC College of Dentistry
- UIC College of Nursing
- UIC College of Pharmacy
- UIC School of Public Health
- UIC Jane Addams College of Social Work
UIC can be dropped on second reference.
Campuses outside Chicago should be referenced by the full name on first reference.
- University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria
- University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford
- UIC College of Nursing–Peoria
- UIC College of Nursing–Quad Cities
- UIC College of Nursing–Rockford
- UIC College of Nursing–Springfield
- UIC College of Nursing–Urbana
- UIC College of Pharmacy–Rockford